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Bionic Commando

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Bionic Commando
In-game logo (NES)
Nintendo NST
Nintendo of America
Composer(s)Harumi Fujita (Arcade)
Junko Tamiya (NES)[1]
Tim Follin (C64, Amiga, Spectrum, ST)
Platform(s)Arcade, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, MS-DOS, ZX Spectrum, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, Nvidia Shield, Windows

Bionic Commando is a video game franchise consisting of an original arcade video game released in 1987 and several later versions and sequels. The games are platform games in which, with two exceptions, the player cannot jump. A bionic arm is used to cross gaps and climb ledges. The player character, Nathan "Rad" Spencer, uses this as a grappling gun/hook to swing, climb and descend through levels. Seven games have been released, from the original 1987 Bionic Commando to 2011's Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. The series is based in an alternate timeline in which Nazism is not completely eradicated following World War II.


Each of the Bionic Commando titles have core gameplay elements that center on the use of protagonist Nathan "Rad" Spencer's bionic arm. This is used as a grappling gun/hook to swing, climb and descend through levels. It is further used in combat to pull towards or push away enemies. Until 2009's Bionic Commando Spencer could not jump as a gameplay mechanic, however this and the follow-up title Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 gave Spencer a simple jump mechanic that works in conjunction with the bionic arm gameplay.

All games but 2009's Bionic Commando are played from a 2D perspective; the game is played primarily from a side-view perspective as and action platform game. Some sequences are played in a top-down view. With the 2009 iteration the game was given full 3D exploration, with perspective being over the shoulder. Here, in addition to the arc of Spencer's swing, the player can control left-right sway of the swing to adjust for targets. For the Rearmed entries the games are rendered in 3D but gameplay is still restricted to a 2D plane, making these 2.5D platform games.

Synopsis and setting[edit]

The Bionic Commando universe is set in a timeline in which Nazism is not completely eradicated following World War II. While fascist undertones were present in the 1987 game, it wasn't until the 1988 game's appearance on the Famicom and NES that these became more apparent. The Empire in the Japanese version was actually a neo-Nazi nation and the Imperial Army's insignia was a Nazi Swastika with a thunderbolt behind it. In the English version, the Nazis are referred as the "Badds", though the backstory in its manual refers to them as the "Nazz".[2]: 4 [3] The Imperial Army's Swastika insignia was changed into a new one resembling an eagle; and the leader of the villains, originally called Weizmann in the Japanese version,[4]: 4  was renamed Killt, although the soldiers and characters keep their same Nazi-like appearance. The difficulty of the game was rebalanced and some of the areas were made less difficult.[5] One of the most prominent differences is the identity of the ultimate antagonist of the game, who is meant to be a revived Adolf Hitler in the Japanese version. For the English version, the character was renamed "Master-D", however his appearance remained the same.[3] There is a gory ending sequence in which Hitler's face explodes, which was also kept intact in the English version.[6] Later games expanded on this alternate timeline and the fallout from the fascist regime toppling. Spencer goes on to confront terrorist groups and dictators.


Bionic Commando
1987Bionic Commando (Arcade/Home computer)
1988Bionic Commando (Famicom/NES)
1992Bionic Commando (Game Boy)
2000Bionic Commando: Elite Forces
2008Bionic Commando Rearmed
2009Bionic Commando (PS3/X360/WIN)
2011Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

The original Japanese arcade game and its Famicom counterpart (Hitler's Resurrection) are called Top Secret (Japanese: トップシークレット,, Hepburn: Toppu Shīkuretto). The original arcade game was advertised in the United States as a sequel to Commando, going as far to refer to the game's main character as Super Joe (the protagonist of Commando) in the promotional brochure,[7] who was originally an unnamed member of a "special commando unit" in the Japanese and World versions.[8][9] In 1988, Capcom produced a home version for the Nintendo Entertainment System, also titled Bionic Commando, that was drastically different from the original arcade game. A version much truer to the coin-op original was released for the Amiga (OCS) in 1988;[10] it was also ported to the other leading micros: the Atari ST, Commodore 64,[11] Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. They were "wire action" games created by Tokuro Fujiwara, based on his earlier 1983 arcade game Roc'n Rope. He originally intended Bionic Commando to be an expanded version of its predecessor Roc'n Rope.[12] The music for the original arcade game was developed by Harumi Fujita, a member of the then all-female Capcom Sound Team. Fellow female video game composer Junko Tamiya adapted two of the original arcade tracks (The "Bionic Commando Theme" and "The Powerplant") and expanded the soundtrack by adding several new songs in the console versions for the Japanese Famicom and the NES ports of the game.[1]

An adaptation of Bionic Commando for the Game Boy was released in 1992. There was also an MSdos/386 version of the game available circa 1991. A sequel, Bionic Commando: Elite Forces, was released in 1999 for the Game Boy Color. Though it borrows some elements from its predecessors, Elite Forces has a different plot from the rest of the series. Also, the characters (an unnamed male or female commando) have a few more moves, such as the ability to climb down from platforms, and can also utilize a sniper rifle in some segments to eliminate distant enemies.

An enhanced remake of the 1988 NES version was developed by Grin and published by Capcom for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade and was released on August 13, 2008, under the name, Bionic Commando Rearmed (バイオニック コマンドー マスターD復活計画, Bionic Commando: Master D Resurrection Project in Japan). The remake serves as a prelude to the 2009 video game Bionic Commando. A sequel, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, was released in February 2011.

In November 2015, Capcom released the 5 Disc Senjo no Okami & Top Secret Original Sound Collection (戦場の狼&トップシークレットオリジナルサウンドコレクション)[13] It included the soundtrack from all in-house developed games from those two series. Manami Matsumae wrote the liner notes.[14]

In other media[edit]

Protagonist Nathan Spencer has been featured as a playable character in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds and a follow-up title, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. The Capcom free-to-play card game Teppen featured an event that combined Bionic Commando themes with Cannon Spike. Here Nathan Spencer is available as a card to collect and use.


  1. ^ a b "Junko Tamiya Interview: Creating Capcom's Incredible NES Scores". Video Game Music Online. 2014-05-19. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
  2. ^ Bionic Commando Instruction Manual. Sunnyvale, CA: Capcom. 1988. NES-CM-USA.
  3. ^ a b Robinson, Martin (January 17, 2008). "Bionic Commando Rearmed Preview". IGN. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  4. ^ Top Secret: Hitler no Fukkatsu (booklet manual) (in Japanese). Capcom. 1988. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  5. ^ Elite Coder. "Bionic Commando Famicom Version".
  6. ^ Sandvik, Per Arne (November 15, 2002) The Horror! Archived July 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Encyclopedia Obscura. Retrieved on July 9, 2008
  7. ^ "The Arcade Flyer Archive - Video Game: Bionic Commando, Capcom".
  8. ^ "The Arcade Flyer Archive - Video Game: Bionic Commando, Capcom".
  9. ^ "The Arcade Flyer Archive - Video Game: Top Secret, Capcom".
  10. ^ "Bionic Commando, The Database of Amiga Games".
  11. ^ "Impossible to Display Scan".
  12. ^ The Man Who Made Ghosts’n Goblins: Tokuro Fujiwara Interview Archived 2012-08-21 at the Wayback Machine, Continue, Vol. 12, 2003
  13. ^ "e-Capcom page of Commando and Bionic Commando Original Sound Collection, Capcom".
  14. ^ "Manami Matsumae details her involvement with the Sound Collection, Manami Matsumae via Twitter".